“Without continual growth and process, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin
You have a fantastic product or service, your customer service is way better than your competitors and your customers keep coming back, but something is not right. Your growth has plateaued and you are not sure why.
You work hard at sales and marketing, trying new things and see small successes. Sales fall, then rise, then fall again. It is stressful. Your company has grown and you start to lose the “family business” feel. You worry that employees will quit and if they do, that you are no longer able to take their responsibilities on top of your own. Everything seems out of sync. You wonder if your company is working for you or you are working for your company.
All of your time and energy is spent keeping your house in order.This growth plateau is the dilemma faced by many small business owners.
Just as the word implies, a plateau is not necessarily a bad place to be. You have a fairly high vantage point; you have risen above your competition and are enjoying success. It is just that your business growth is not as steady or captivating as it once was. Things might feel stagnant. If this describes your venture, it is time to move upward and continue challenging yourself and your Team.
What should you do when you see a growth plateau? The hasty response is to throw more money at the problem in the form of aggressive marketing or to seek a cash injection to reinvest in your business. However, before you spend another cent on marketing or take on additional debt, consider the following ideas that may help your business start growing again:
- Update Your Business Plan
Before you started your business, when you created your plans, you had an idea of how you wanted things to work. However, things do not always happen according to plan. Now that Business Plan is wrong or outdated. You find yourself making tougher and tougher decisions to adapt on the fly.
Solution : Perhaps it is time to re-assess your whole Plan and see if it is relevant today. It takes years to build a business and lots of things change and evolve in a year or two – the economy, your customers, your products and services, your goals and much more. So take a look at your Business plan, and tweak it as necessary.
- Do Not Discount, Add Value
Selling based on low prices or low fees only works if you are the lowest-priced alternative and chances are, that’s not you. In fact, your prospective clients can go to Google and find a lower-priced alternative in seconds. If you desperately price-drop in an effort to attract sales, it’s a very shaky, short-term approach that I call a “race to the bottom”, where you attract the lowest-value clients that will leave as soon as someone undercuts you.
Solution: A better strategy than lowering prices is to add value to what you do. This will make your business more profitable and allow you to compete for better, more profitable clients or customers.
- Work Smarter, Not Harder
Entrepreneurs and business owners face a common problem: too much to do, too little time. They are so caught up in the day-to-day that they end up micromanaging every aspect of the business and never really get anything done. Although entrepreneurs and business owners will always feel the pinch of time and the stress of the job, they do not have to suffer needlessly with tasks that can be systematized. Your business systems and processes need to be so well documented that anybody could step in and handle any aspect of your business. Design your business so that if you disappeared off the face of the planet tomorrow, your business would not skip a beat. Documenting your business processes is not fun, but it is an essential step if you want to grow your business.
Solution: Start by listing all of the different major aspects of your business. Some examples of processes including: finding new customers, hiring and training employees etc. There are a multitude of steps and you need to be meticulous about the details. As you list the details of your process, it will help you identify weaknesses. Your detailed business processes will be the foundation of your business growth.
Every business faces competition, both in terms of sales and just as importantly, effectiveness and efficiency. That is where automation can be key. To remain competitive, you need to automate or someone else will automate you out of business.
Solution: Pick the low hanging fruit first. Pick the tasks where there is no human value-add. Automation helps you avoid human error while saving time in execution. Pick a function with a solid Return On Investment and automate it. Then pick another function and do it again. Once you get a few wins under your belt, your employees will be begging you to automate certain functions. You will not have to push your employees; they will pull you in.
It is also critical to build a culture that embraces automation. Employees are often reluctant to embrace automation because they are concerned they will automate themselves out of a job. However, in most businesses, the highest performers tend to automate the most, whether formally or informally – that is one reason why they are top performers. Those are the people who automate themselves into greater roles within the business.
- Distinguish Yourself From The Competition
In an attempt to play it safe, you have camouflaged your business. You appear to be like all the other providers in your industry, just blending in. While the names and faces change, nothing is really noteworthy about your business. Nothing sets you apart.
Solution: Do something outstanding, if you want to stand out. Something remarkable. Something uniquely valuable. Find a new service that your competitors do not provide. Have a customer meet-and-greet. Conduct a webinar. Or do something else that differentiates your business. Do not be like all the others if you want to get noticed. Stop thinking like every other provider. Be brave and think outside the box. Creativity and courage is what it takes to really grow.
Easier said than done, right? How can you force yourself to have a brainwave of creative genius and come up with your point of difference? It is easy! You already have access to the answer, the greatest resources of your company: your clients! By asking your clients what they want from you and what they recommend for your business, then making those changes, not only will you stand out from the rest – you will also secure that client as a customer for life!
- Don’t Settle For “Too Comfortable”
As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to transition past the comfortable position of the plateau by being open to new challenges. You can take that great mental leap in perception by looking at daunting challenges as opportunities. You have succeeded in your goals and now you are entering new territory that will require the same degree of motivation, aptitude and focus that you possessed when your business began.
This fresh perspective will reinvigorate more than your profits – it will also light a fire amongst your staff. The culture of moving forward takes place when your company or organization works as a team and you are all on the same path in expanding your vision. The strongest company teams push each other to grow, so ensure your team is excited for the challenge (disguised as an opportunity) that lies ahead.
Solution: You cannot expect off-the-charts growth if you are not willing to make the hard decisions or put in the time and effort to change direction. It is not going to be comfortable or fun, but it must be done. It is up to you turn up the enthusiasm and restore the passion you once had. Step outside your comfort zone, set bigger goals, make the commitment. You have to be your own Champion!
- Don’t Do It All Yourself
You have built your business on the foundations of your own expertise. You do not have partners or team members to collaborate with, so you have been reluctant to outsource tasks or spend money on help. However, if you try to do everything yourself, including accounting, website maintenance, content development and more, your efforts are going to suffer. Plus, you are limiting your growth and can find yourself on the fast track to burnout.
Perhaps you say, “I don’t have enough money to hire outside help.” However, if you do not take the risk to get some help with things that distract you from selling more and growing your company, you will stay stuck.
Solution: Consider Outsourcing. It will cost a lot less than you think, it will free up your precious time within the business and it is unquestionably worthwhile.
These are just a few of the ideas for your business to help you overcome the growth struggle. Be brave. It is very common for a small business to go through a rapid growth spurt and then slow down dramatically. The best way to deal with lack of growth is to figure out the causes and fix them, which usually is relatively fast and easy.
You could do nothing and look for excuses — blaming others, insufficient time and money, etc. Or, you can look for ways to improve things and work on the improvements.